Hillside Collides with Magnolia House

KING COUNTY, Washington State

Incident Summary

A rain-soaked hillside turned into a scary moment on Friday, January 7, 2022, after it collided downward into a house and forced off its foundation, entrapping the homeowner, and two of his dogs.

Units Dispatched

The Fire Alarm Center dispatched A14, AIR10, B2, B4, DEP1, E18, E2, E20, E41, E8, L1, L4, M18, M44, R1, SAFT2, and STAF10 just after 1330 hours, when the first 9-1-1 call came into the Emergency Communications Center. The call was listed as a heavy rescue call.

Fire Response

Seattle Fire resources arrived quickly with all of their heavy tools and equipment, apparatus, and manpower, but they were faced with several challenges, which can see in this video above that included fire suppression and having to pass resources up and downhill. Multiple actions were being taken place at the same time. A Magnolia Fire Station is literally down the street from this incident and was the first-due unit, requesting additional members to respond to the scene.

One homeowner was saved from their house while a female had extricated herself safely. One dog was found deceased and the Fire Department states they were unable to locate the second canine.

Impacted Structure

Today, the homeowner in the 2400 block on Perkins Lane was lucky as was another occupant escaping with their lives and with home determined to have moved about 15-20 feet off of its foundation.

Today’s impacted residence is a 1.5-story, 5,000-square foot home with sweeping views of the Puget Sound and Olympics is listed at an estimated assessed value of $3.1 Million Dollars, according to the County’s tax assessor records. The amount of property damage sustained due to the landslide and fire is unknown at the time of publication.

Evacuations, Repopulation

The Seattle Police Department assisted with area evacuations and blocked roadways to keep people out of the landslide area. Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light were requested to secure utilities. An Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections Inspector was also sent to the site to investigate the damage to the existing nearby structure and checked this home’s structural integrity, and if repopulation back to area homes could be safely occupied.

Reminder to Homeowners

The Seattle Fire Department asks those who have homes in areas on or near steep slopes to periodically evaluate the state of their hillside for signs of soil movement and determination to determine if there are leaning trees or cracks in the soil. This is very important especially during the rainy season.

Landslide History on Perkins Lane West

Homes built on Perkins Lane have been used in many Puget Sound weather models by geologists and future college students in how the area is an iconic display of how landslides greatly impact this area

1920s-30s: Records indicate this area has been dangerous from the beginning of time when homes were being built in the 1920s and ’30s, but yet homes are still being constructed on this unstable and constantly shifting land beneath it.

1996-1997: Another article originally written in 2011 and updated in 2015, by the Seattle Times with the title, “Living in a slide zone” talks about how wet the season was in the Puget Sound area in 1996-1997 where landslides occurred all over the region.

A more notable incident occurred in 1997 when a landslide near the south end of the area would destroy several homes from similar situations.

Landslide starting on the side of a cliff in the Seattle Area
1996-1997 landslide. Credit: Public Domain

In March of 2006, a group of college students destined for a Field Trip as listed in their ESS315 Class for extra credit was posted online outlines one of the areas of study, “Perkins Lane”, where they are going to a park on Magnolia Blvd. above Perkins Lane and taking the stairs down to the landslide area, where five homes were destroyed in 1996. In the document, it states the following, “A geotechnical firm recommended that the City install dewatering wells to reduce the water pressure at the base of the sand. Before these wells could be installed, the big destructive slides occurred. One of the homeowners sued the City of Seattle for failing to stabilize the bluff. The suit was later dismissed.” (Source: https://faculty.washington.edu/tswanson/ESS/315/06%20Fieldtrip.pdf)

2013: On December 11, 2013, proof of a landslide occurred as one Social Media user took a photo showing proof it occurred.

2014: An article was written by a reporter, Deborah Wang (KUOW) on March 26, 2014, covering the Perkins Lane area, spoke to an area resident about a devastating landslide that occurred 18 years prior when a deep-seated landslide released a large portion of the bluff taking five houses with it. (Source: NPR. https://kuow.org/stories/perkins-lane-seattles-poster-child-landslide-risk/)

To learn more about Landslide Hazards, the USGS is currently monitoring for researching rainfall thresholds for forecasting landslide potential. Shallow landslides are common on coastal bluffs overlooking Puget Sound according to their site here —> https://www.usgs.gov/programs/landslide-hazards/science/seattle-area-washington

(c) 2022 NW Fire Blog – Published 1/7/2022 2300 hours PT

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